Monday, March 31, 2008

Kongai: I Love the Smell of New Game In The Morning

I know I planned on putting up some content over the weekend. And, well, I didn't. It's not my fault. You see, there's this new game. I really like her. She's pretty and she smells of soft things.
In other words, I've fallen heads over heels for Kongai. It's been sucking up a lot of time and, now that I've gotten a few matches under my belt I'm confident it's going to be sucking up even more (Which is the last thing I need right now but, hey, that's just the way it goes.). I've still yet to rope someone in authority and ask them about the rules regarding what I can and can't say so I'll try and keep from getting all crunchy with it. I know that they don't want people posting screenshots because the "press" doesn't want to be deprived of their exclusives (I use the scare quotes because the gaming press in no way resembles actual journalism and is more like a subsidized echo chamber for hype and press releases. Also, some game companies consider bloggers as part of the press. Kept some folks I know out of some closed tests.). And, instead, I'll try and stick to the basic impressions.

Basically, the game is dead simple. It's like a fighting game. In card form. Online. It's weird but it works. You have a set number of cars and so does your opponent. These cards battle it out. Cards each have a special ability and can snap on another card, an item card, to gain another one. And each card has four different skills. Which can be anything from "You poke your opponent in the eye with a sharp stick, they take damage and are quite annoyed" to intricately complex buffs that pry open the game's system and insert interesting new wrinkles. There's a large mix of cards and skills already with the promise of more sets to come in the future. Cards have the standard health and armor and the energy to use their special skills and you set them out and have them fight each other to the death, one by one, until someone runs out of cards.

But that's just where the game is getting started. Because you don't have to stick with the card you've set out at all. You can, instead of attacking, switch it for any card still in your hand avoiding any attacks made against you in the process. Your old card goes into your hand to rest up for the next go-around and you set out another card to fight on.

But, at the same time, instead of attacking your opponent can choose to intercept. A move that does nothing except deliver a crushing blow to any card trying to escape and keeps them in play - if they're not already dead.

It becomes a complicated puzzle of trying to guess when your opponent is going to bug out and avoid your attacks. Or when they're going to stay because they know you're itching to catch them slipping away. All added on top of the game's already deep system of card fighting.

Even beyond that, there's a range system where before you can spend some energy to stay close or step away. Since some moves are restricted to certain ranges it becomes a question of whether you want to play keep away and blow your pool or save your energy to attack with.

The game's not without its problems. The matches can drag on a little long for my tastes. I'm a little worried about the way unlocks will be handled. And the balance is a little lacking (It's not awful but it's not as good as it could be. Trust me, I'm working on it.). Probably the most troubling is how it relies on random luck generators at precisely the wrong moments. But for a game that's still in development, it's strong and surprisingly engaging. For my tastes, anyways.

And although it's not perfect, it does seem perfectly suited to my tastes. Just the right combination of knowledge and preparation required to crunch numbers on the fly sprinkled through with elements that reward the unquantifiable elements. Because you can delve into the numbers and the stats and the descriptions and come up with a perfect strategy but since it's not all about the numbers, it still might not matter if you don't have nerves of steel. Brass ones help, too.

Honestly, I haven't been this thrilled about a game since Guild Wars. And I can't help but compare my experience these past few days with my early time with that game. That heady time when everything was fresh and new and exciting. There were stats to unravel and strats to uncover. No one knew what they were doing. No one would know for months just what they were wrong about just that they were. But, flush with the joy of a game we'd fallen for, we couldn't help but talk and chat and discuss and try to understand the game. On boards, in chats, and everywhere else we picked apart at the things we understood and guessed at the things we didn't. I'd like to think I helped that process along, somewhat.

Just as I'd like to think I have somehting to offer to the people playing and making Kongai. I might not be the best player. I might not be the smartest. But I am one of the wordiest. And when I'm engaged, when I'm involved, when my interest has been piqued and I'm aroused form the daily slumber that is my waking life, I'm not exactly shy about making my opinion known. It's fun. And, I think, in a lot of ways, I've been looking for a way back to that feeling of enjoyment I had, way back when. For other games, for other things, that so captivated me.

So, you'll forgive me if I've been a bit absent around here. It just takes time to play those games and make those posts and have those conversations. With the Frenzy starting - gulp - tomorrow, I'll likely have even less. Which is why I'm going to be posting a lot less around here. At least until I can get someone to tell me it's okay to post my twelve-part treatise on why Higashi is the best card ever where everyone can see.

4 comments:

Bruce said...

Saus' said:
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when I'm engaged, when I'm involved, when my interest has been piqued and I'm aroused form the daily slumber that is my waking life, I'm not exactly shy about making my opinion known. It's fun. And, I think, in a lot of ways, I've been looking for a way back to that feeling of enjoyment I had, way back when. For other games, for other things, that so captivated me.

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Well said!

It's a sad thing that many people can’t appreciate discussion—the sharing of perspective. And that's a little silly, because not only can it be fun, engaging, interesting, stimulating, and enjoyable (not to mention, educational), research shows that humans are designed to be specialists, and since we're all specialists within the realm of our talents and strengths, and since no two talent/strengths configurations are alike, such exchanges can be enormously beneficial.

Anyway, the reason I’m commenting is to tell you that if you like Kongai, you’re bound to like David Sirlin’s other card game, Yomi (and possibly even his other one, Spellblind).

Yomi and Spellblind are still in development, and I can’t really give you any decent information on them (most of my info comes from reading an unreasonable amount of Sirlin.net), but suffice to say Yomi is a fighting card game that’s simpler then Kongai and based around RPS mechanics and closely draws from the mechanics of Street Fighter (which is what Kongai does as well... Sirlin even said so).

People who’ve played Yomi seem to really like it and find it addictive. A Guilty Gear player said he liked it more then Guilty Gear, heh.

I’ll let you know when Sirlin lets out more info about Yomi. Here’s a post that talks about it a little: http://www.sirlin.net/archive/card-games-and-evolution-2006/

As for Kongai, so long as Sirlin has influence with the game, and so long as I know Sirlin, I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't suffer the same fate as Guild Wars. As you know, Gw is ok, but it was truly great at one stage, and it'd be nice if Kongai can maintain that, at least, on some level.

— Bruce

PS.
I liked your usage of "crushing blow." ;)

PPS.
Re: the Fury writing event – Power to you, you crazy man, you. =)

Sausaletus Rex said...

Thanks again, Bruce (he's one of the sharks swimming in the small but growing pool of Kongai players, by the way. Don't let him fool you, he's the real gosu.).

It's a sad thing that many people can’t appreciate discussion—the sharing of perspective.

That is exactly what I've long thought even without the benefits of research. Civilization is an agalmic process. Society is an additive game. One where everyone is made better by everyone else.

But one reason that people don't see that might be a kind of perspetion bias. We don't see ourselves as special but, instead, as normal. Ordinary. Just like everyone else - because who wants to stand out from the crowd?

People might not realize that they have something unique to contribute, might not realize how valuable their insights and experience might be in providing contrast to everyone else. On top of all the shame (Stemming from a culture that trains people to "win" or not to bother.) and the inertia of apathy it helps to explain why some hcoose to remain in the silent minority.


if you like Kongai, you’re bound to like David Sirlin’s other card game, Yomi (and possibly even his other one, Spellblind).

Already well aware of those. But it never does hurt to pass them along, does it? They do look nice but, I'm afraid, not nice for me.

I'm not a big fan of real life card games (That are more complicated/less popular than poker, anyway.). Just too hard to find games, too much mess and clutter added to my already hectic life. That's why the online card game that is Kongai works so well for me. Ideally, I can drop in and play a round whenever and whereever - at home, at work, on a laptop on the road, whatever. And if the game is tuned right then I won't have to do any shuffling or preparation. I can just login, grab a match or three and spend the 15~30 minute I have to spare concentrating on the fun instead of on the getting there.

if you like Kongai, you’re bound to like David Sirlin’s other card game, Yomi (and possibly even his other one, Spellblind).

You have no idea how hard I work at dropping little things like that into each and everything I post. Seriously, if it wasn't for all the shits and giggles I get out of lacing things with injokes I think I would have given up a long time ago.

The Frenzy

Ha, yes, it is crazy. But, then, if I was sane, I probably wouldn't do a lot of things. It's going well so far already. I've just about gotten issue one all blocked and written out. I just need to convert it from loose prose form to an acceptable comic script template now. Probably a bit of tweaking and adjusting and additive editing along the way so I'm not sure how long that'll take or if I can get it all done today. But so far so good.

Bruce said...

Saus' said:
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Don't let him fool you, he's the real gosu.
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Alas! You've seen through my (not so) clever ruse.

Seriously though, I think I can only claim the "real gosu" title once I've relieved Mario of his Daigo Umehara-like winning streak in Kongai. I'm working on it, but I fear his 5-card game, and he fears my 3-card game, so we both opt for avoidance and procrastination, lest we take a loss.

Thanks, though. =)

Saus' said:
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I'm not a big fan of real life card games [...] That's why the online card game that is Kongai works so well for me. [...] I can just login, grab a match or three and spend the 15~30 minute I have to spare concentrating on the fun instead of on the getting there.
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Oh, I hear you. "Getting there" seems to be the new "fun" in games, regardless of how un-fun it really is, ha.

Good news is that Sirlin is trying to get Yomi (and I assume Spellblind) playable online. This is, according to him, non-trivial, but at least there's some hope.

Even still, these particular games may not interest you, but I thought I'd at least mention that for the masses of people who _should_ be reading your blog, but probably aren't, heh. Maybe we can get you on the first page of digg?

Saus' said:
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The Frenzy
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You've gone and got me snared in the Frenzy trap of writing insanity, and strangely, for that I must thank you.

I'm gunning to write 100 pages worth of content for a website I'm working on with a friend. Not quite a script, but I figure the magic is in the process and the final result. No matter how you look at it, 100 pages is still 100 pages. And 100 pages in 30 days is, as the Persian messenger aptly put it, "madness!"

But then, like you, I wouldn't have it any other way. ;)

*hits hotkey #6, gains 33% increased typing speed*

— Bruce

Sausaletus Rex said...

I'm working on it, but I fear his 5-card game, and he fears my 3-card game, so we both opt for avoidance and procrastination, lest we take a loss.

Why? I can see the format issue being a problem (I'd just have a round robin. 5-Card constructed, then 3-Card constructed, then random(all) in the format of choice of the first person to respond in chat.) but it's not like losses matter at this point. For anything beyond e-peen sizing, of course.

Then, you're ducking a match with me, too, if memory serves...

the masses of people who _should_ be reading your blog, but probably aren't

You mean my loyal horde of tumbleweeds and crickets? No, I don't get a lot of traffic here, but that's never really been the point.

And, no, I don't mind you passing along any interesting links or information you like. (Everyone? Like spammers and the like? That's another story.)

Not quite a script, but I figure the magic is in the process and the final result.

Exactly. Frenzy and the NaNo spirit which spawned it aren't about writing out 100 pages or 50,000 words. It's all about letting go of your inhibitions, firing up your creative juices, and getting your write on. It's a contest you hold with yourself to reach an arbitrary number. And if you want to come up with your own then that's not just acceptable, that's ideal. Good luck with it and, believe me, it's totally worth it.

*hits hotkey #6, gains 33% increased typing speed*

Ugh, everyone knows Frenzy goes in your #7, bound to a key near your WASD for easy reach. #6 is your toggle, bound to somewhere even closer so you don't have far to reach for an emergency stance dance session.